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Your Pet and Cancer

November 12 2018

Did you know that cancer is a leading cause of death for pets over ten? Just like people, pets can develop many types of cancer. Dr. Laura Klar discusses cancer in pets in this article.

Cancer Types

Lymphoma is one of the cancers we see most often in our furry friends. With cats, lymphoma is often related to feline leukemia virus, or FeLV. Tumors are also not uncommon. Dogs and cats can also develop many other types of cancer, such as breast cancer; bone cancer; and melanoma, a skin cancer. It’s worth noting that with dogs, certain breeds—such as Boxers, Labrador retrievers, beagles, Boston terriers, and schnauzers—may be at higher risk of developing cancer. Some types of dogs are also more susceptible to specific cancers. For instance, many larger dogs are prone to developing hemangiosarcoma, which affects blood vessels, and osteosarcoma, a fast-growing bone cancer.


Keep a close eye out for potential symptoms, such as weight loss, poor appetite, weakness, a distended abdomen, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty defecating or urinating, or trouble breathing. Your pet may also drink more water than usual, and may seem weak or lethargic. You’ll also want to watch for lumps or lesions. Any lump that has been on your pet for over a month, and/or is more than a centimeter—about the size of a pea—should be aspirated to determine if it is indeed cancerous. (Note: this is the meaning behind our slogans See something, Do something! and Don’t wait, Aspirate! ) Sometimes, specific cancers have unique symptoms. For instance, a swollen paw or a runny eye are often the first signs of melanoma. If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, schedule an evaluation with your vet right away.


It can be quite scary and upsetting to find that your furry best friend has cancer. However, with recent advances in veterinary medicine, there are now treatment options to help your pet feel better and improve their quality of life. Treatments can also help pets live longer, giving you more time with your animal companion. Chemotherapy, which we offer here at AMC, is one of the most successful. Pets often experience much milder side effects from chemotherapy than people do, and can do quite well on the treatment. Other options include surgery, radiation, and immunotherapy. Ask your vet for more information.

Preventative Care

There are many possible causes for cancer, including environmental factors, such as exposure to toxic chemicals and/or to secondhand smoke; breed; and genetics. Age is also a factor, as cancer is more common in senior pets. This is one reason that we offer senior screening packages, which include bloodwork, chest x-rays, and abdominal ultrasounds. This helps detect problems early on, when treatment has a better chance of being successful. If your dog or cat is overdue for a full exam, please call to schedule an appointment immediately.

Please contact us, your Upper Peninsula, MI vet clinic, with any questions about cancer and pets. We are here to help!

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